I have already written about the short-term opportunities for contractors that focus on rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. But long-term opportunities will also arise in infrastructure construction as a result of flooding along our coastal areas.
The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted two reasons why coastal cities prone to flooding, like New York City, are making changes to infrastructure:
Sea levels could rise by 0.59 meters and storm intensity is set to increase, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report. Furthermore, building on flood plains could expose infrastructure valued at $35 trillion (€24.4 trillion) to floods by the 2070s, according to a recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report on port cities. "Even if sea levels are not rising – the expected annual damage is rising," says Robert Nicholls, a coastal engineer from the University of Southampton and an OECD report contributor.
What type of construction opportunities will arise from flood planning?
New York City is making changes to its existing infrastructure in preparation for increased flooding. For example, the city is in the process of lifting power generators at wastewater plants above predicted flood levels. For those of you that watched the recent Japanese nuclear saga, you may recall that many of the problems arose because backup power generators were knocked out by flood waters.
However, lifting infrastructure above flood levels is probably not enough. Instead, many cities have resorted to constructing expensive flood barriers:
[O]ther cities without flood defenses are building barriers. Among them is Venice, which floods several times a year, and St. Petersburg, which has been waiting for flood barriers since 1979. Venice is building a flood barrier designed for 60 centimeters of sea level rise, due to be finished in 2014. St. Petersburg is due to open its flood barrier in 2011.
The United States is completing a similar $14.5 billion flood barrier project to protect New Orleans in the event it faces another Hurricane Katrina.
The cost to build a flood barrier around New York City would certainly exceed $14.5 billion. In coastal cities like New York City, contractors that can assist with our short-term infrastructure construction needs will also likely find long-term opportunities in the same sector.